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Perspectives

February 2, 2009
Obama administration omits Kashmir from envoy’s mandate

The U.S. removed the contested region of Kashmir from envoy Richard Holbrooke’s mandate. Photo: United Nations

Mohsin Mohi-Ud Din is a Kashmiri-American who is currently a Fulbright scholar in Morocco. He also works for Human Rights First, is the drummer of a Kashmiri rock band Zerobridge and blogs at the Huffington Post. Mohsin participated in the Worldfocus online radio show about the disputed region of Kashmir. He writes about the decision to remove the Kashmir issue from U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke’s mandate, arguing that it will have lasting repercussions.

During his presidential campaign, President Obama publicly stated that peace in South Asia and Afghanistan would need to incorporate some kind of resolution on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

The then presidential candidate rightly stated, “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis.” Obama’s stance restored hope in Kashmir as a whole, including the Kashmiri civil society and pro-democratic forces in the Kashmir valley.

Over the summer, Kashmir witnessed the largest civil protests in years, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in peaceful, unarmed protests demanding freedom, peace and human rights. Even though more than 40 unarmed protesters were killed and hundreds were beaten and arrested by state security forces, Kashmiris marched on for weeks. Kashmiri civil society showed the world its commitment to non-violent demonstrations, desire for peace and respect for human rights.

Yet last week, the Obama administration announced the mandate of Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy to Pakistan and India, would not include the disputed territory of Kashmir. India has celebrated the announcement as a political victory. Kashmiris again find themselves shaking their heads at a lost opportunity for the truth be exposed concerning the atrocities and political oppression they endure.

India’s celebration comes as no surprise. Greater attention to the Kashmir conflict would threaten India’s reputation as the largest democracy in the world. Kashmir remains a huge stain in India’s already questionable human rights record. The U.S. envoy’s attention to Kashmir would have perhaps shed more light on the scale of atrocities and political oppression endured by Kashmiris for over a decade.

Read more about Worldfocus’ coverage of the Kashmiri people, history and human rights.

U.S. and the Muslim world

Like the conflicts in Afghanistan and Palestine, the Kashmir conflict is one that is talked about in hundreds of thousands of mosques — not jut in the region, but throughout the world. Extremists in the Muslim world often use Palestine and Afghanistan as examples for creating anti-U.S. sentiments. Unlike Palestine and Afghanistan, however, the U.S. is still in a position where it can either appear as a helper or an agitator. Kashmiris are looking to the new administration to pressure both India and Pakistan to acknowledge the grievances of the people living in the Kashmir valley.

The U.S envoy’s omission of Kashmir in his mandate threatens to leave Kashmiri civil society vulnerable, and U.S. supporters in Kashmir beleaguered. Atrocities will continue and the current generation of youth will grow increasingly helpless within the present system of zero accountability for past killings and rapes and zero justice. Such developments threaten U.S. interests for achieving peace, strengthening democratic institutions and defeating extremism in the region.

Peace will be hollow if Kashmiri civil society continues to be marginalized. Extremists will capitalize on this marginalization. Therefore, it is imperative that the Obama administration create avenues of communication to the thriving Kashmiri civil society, which supports human rights and transparency.

The U.S. relationship with India and Pakistan is in itself peculiar and warrants some serious reevaluation. On the one hand, the majority of systematic abuses in Kashmir are continually perpetrated by India, which receives praise by the U.S. for being the world’s largest democracy and remains a key economic partner in Asia. Making matters more complex, America’s ally in the war terror, Pakistan, remains a provider of weapons and money to some militants operating in Kashmir. All the while the situation on the ground deteriorates and extremists win ground against confused U.S sympathizers in the region.

Displaced Kashmiris. Photo: David Swanson/IRIN

Hopes and desires of the Kashmiri people

For too long, Kashmir has been debated from the lenses of India, Pakistan and extremists. Yet Kashmir is not limited to these players. Within Kashmir are the people — the people most affected from the conflict, a people who suffered and continue to suffer atrocities. They are a people who desire peace, human rights and democracy. Organic institutions in Kashmir founded on human rights, democracy, and justice exist, yet they continue to be overshadowed.

It was my hope that the U.S. envoy to the region would at least have a mandate to reach out to these institutions. I still hope that he will, perhaps behind the scenes. I hope — and Kashmiris hope — that the Obama administration pushes for greater communication with local civil society on the ground in Kashmir, for they wait and pray for the next opportunity for greater justice and accountability to materialize. And it must also be stated that the extremists and the Taliban hope for the opposite.

Regional peace and U.S. interests

Kashmir is at critical stage that will affect both regional peace and security and U.S. interests in the region. As opportunities for greater justice and accountability for Kashmiris are continually marginalized, the Kashmiri youth of today, who have seen nothing but war and failed judicial processes and failed political processes, will be ever vulnerable to sympathizing with extremists and Taliban forces in the region, thus threatening U.S. interests in the region. The road to defeating the Taliban and extremism in the region is through strengthening and supporting institutions of peace, democracy and human rights.

Since India continues to oppress civil society in Kashmir, as seen last summer with the killings of unarmed protesters, it is left to the international community to bring the people’s grievances forward. The road to peace in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India leads through Kashmir and through recognition and inclusion of Kashmiri civil society.

Will we (America) continue to shake India’s and Pakistan’s hands as 1,000 mass graves are left uninvestigated by India and as Pakistan continues to support certain militant groups in Kashmir? I hope not. I pray that this country, America — a country that prides itself on justice, accountability, human rights and change — will for the first time in eight years mean what it says.

In the meantime, Kashmir waits, still bleeding.

– Mohsin Mohi-Ud Din

The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.

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Comments

6 comments

#6

[…] article and additional fact sheets may also be found at http://worldfocus.org/blog/2009/02/02/obama-administration-omits-kashmir-from-envoys-mandate/3869/ ). Tags: India, Kashmir, Obama, Pakistan, Zerobridge […]

#5

sunil
have u visited kashmir?
have u visited families of 80,000 kashmiris killed by indian forces?
have u visited families of 10,000 people disappeared in indian custody?
have u visited families of 4000 women raped and humilated by security forces?
Which kashmir u want to show to world?
u can no longer hide reality?

#4

…If you are allowed to get a visa, you moron.

#3

I am certain that Mohsin-mohi-etc has not visited the Indian part of Kashmir in a few years. I highly recommend he makes regular visits of at leat a week wach. In the first one or two visits he will totally deny any positives in Indian Kashmir, blinded by his non visited opinions. In the next few visits, when he sees the effects of Indain Kashmirs Young and dynamic newly elected Chief Minister’s employment and infrastructure efforts, he will be more silent, maybe still agreeing with the professional separatists qho earn by raking up the Kashmir issue. And then after a few more visits, he will be very worried. Worried because he will know that he is going to be unemployed very soon if his only profession is Kashmir in India. The Kashmir issue is dead. Kashmiris living in India are happy. Kashmiris living anywhere else are not. Come visit.

#2

It is strange that Mohsin Mohi Ud Din has not mentioned about the recent election in J&K where a record number of people voted despite death threats by the organizers. He glorifies the mass protest in Kashmir organized Hurriyat Conference by Pakistani patriots Mirwaz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik.These people have been rejected in the poll. These protesters and militants came from Pakistan to grab J& K by force.People of Jammu and Laddhak will never join Pakistan or seek independence.Omar is the legitimate leader of J&K.J& K enjoys far more freedom and autonomy and human rights than Azad J&K.Pakistan is creating these troubles as cover to diffuse liberation movement in Baluchistan and NWFP and division between Shias and Sunnis.
With autonomy granted to J&K, the problem will vanish

#1

Salaam Alaikum, Mo –

It’s Mumtaz (Kim, or Ms Princess W from Myspace). Just read your blog and want to offer up words of support and encouragement. I know all too well the frustration of waiting for someone to do something about Kashmir and seeing the one step forward, two steps back repeating itself while Kashmiris, caught in the crossfire, are voiceless and choiceless. But I also want to offer hope – I believe that Richard Holbrook, who knows very well what is happening in Kashmir, won’t let it slide – regardless of what’s being stated on the record. Off-record, at least to start with maybe, but something is going to happen on Barack Obama and Holbrook’s watch. And I also believe the new CM, Omar Abdullah, has the capability to really enforce a positive change for the people of Kashmir.

I, my Kashmiri husband, and my 2 sons ages 14 and 9 will be in Kashmir in March to live. I’ll regularly be writing of my experiences there.

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